The Jan. 26 Herald editorial infers that in his State of the Union address, Obama did not deal with the fundamental problem facing us. In our opinion, neither did the Herald. Consider this: The United States has roughly 4 percent of the world’s population; China has approximately 20 percent. The rate of population growth in both countries is relatively low and stable.
However, as of 2008, the United States uses 87,216 kWh of electricity per capita, while China uses approximately one-quarter of that: 18,608 kWh per capita. A major difference between the two countries is the technological growth rate in China is accelerating dramatically, while in the United States the technological growth rate is relatively stable. China will undoubtedly seek more energy supplies. In a world of shrinking resources, that presents a problem.
China has raised this question: Is it ethical for 5 percent of the world’s population to consume almost four times as much energy as China, which has 20 percent of the world’s population?
Many anthropologists believe that in order for a democracy to function, there must be an energy surplus. If the United States accommodates China by decreasing its per capita electricity use, this may represent a forfeiture of individual freedom and a reduction in our quality of life. It seems to us that this sparse outline represents a problem the United States must address immediately. Certainly, if we do not decrease our per capita electricity use, then China could be tempted to use military strategies to gain the energy to which she thinks she is entitled.